Paris joins car-free movement

The 'City of Light' announced road closures for a car-free day amid a desire to clean up the city's air and curb pollution. 

Michel Euler/AP/File
Cyclists ride deserted avenues near the National Assembly in Paris in 1999, as France and other European countries celebrate a 'no car day' by banning private cars and trucks from their cities. Paris will once again institute a no car day on September 27.

As traffic delays and vehicle pollution continue to plague major cities around the globe, many cities are starting to take measures to limit car usage, if even just for a day.

Paris is the latest city to join the car-free movement, and will be closing areas of the city to cars between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on September 27. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, along with nonprofit environmental group Paris Sans Voiture (Paris Without Cars), have been organizing the event since March when Ms. Hidalgo agreed to the idea.

The 1st through 7th districts as well as the 10th and 11th, the Champs Élysées, Place Stalingrad, Place de la Republique, the Left Bank, the Place de la Bastille, the Eiffel Tower, the Bois de Vincennes, and the Bois de Boulogne will be particular havens for pedestrians, reported Inverse.

The fine print, however, states that emergency vehicles, public transport, and taxis are still allowed even in the closed sections, reports Fastcoexist, but speeds will be reduced to 20 mph.

Paris Sans Voiture offered ideas for the day on the event website, including discovering hidden nature while taking a new walking route, teaching your kid to ride a bike, or hosting a brunch with friends in an area usually clogged with traffic.

“Our city has to establish an exemplary signal responding to global issues,” Paris Sans Voiture says. “But it also has to respond to local issues after record peaks of pollution and climate challenges that are more than ever at the heart of everyday life. The car-free day, by its magnitude, will also leave a lasting mark on the collective imagination: Everyone can project a city more livable, adopt sustainable behaviors, particularly in terms of mobility and the sharing of public spaces,” reported Forbes.

The momentum for the event comes after “smog in Paris almost reached ‘critical’ levels in March, briefly catapulting it ahead of New Delhi and Beijing for the title of city with the worst air pollution in the world,” reports the Huffington Post. Paris is clearly putting forth an effort to lower pollution levels, also announcing a monetary compensation policy in July that offers financial assistance to those wanting to ditch their cars and also for condominium owners wanting to build safe bike storage or install electrical charging stations for bikes and vehicles.

Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Montreal, as well as Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam have all previously organized events closing streets and neighborhoods to traffic.

In early August, L.A. hosted the 14th edition of cicLAvia during which six miles of roads were closed to cars from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. replaced by more than 20,000 cyclists and pedestrians.

Bogota, Colombia even hosted a week-long celebration last year, but Belgium took the movement even more seriously this summer, closing streets to automobile traffic in Gent for ten weeks, and transforming the closed streets into neighborhood parks.

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